Saturday, 30 July 2011

'Arrietty' Review

'Arrietty' (dir: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2011), Cert: U

Thank the Lord for Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki - The studio that have stuck to their roots for so many years and continue to create effortlessly beautiful and heart-warming features. In a world engulfed by Kevin James 'comedies' and ghastly and unnecessary reboots ('The Smurfs 3D', REALLY?), we are honoured with 'Arrietty'; a heavenly and gentle tale inspired by Mary Norton's 'The Borrowers'. The film has been released in the UK alongside 'Captain America: The First Avenger' and 'Zookeeper' so it's unlikely that this film will gain the attention it deserves, but hopefully one can pursued enough of you to forget Marvel, forget James and immerse yourself in this stupendously brilliant picture...

 Arrietty is a 14 year-old girl who lives with her family underneath another a human family home. The group 'borrow' items they need to survive and love their beautiful and delicate home. However, when a young boy arrives called Shô comes to stay with the family above, Arrietty is accidently spotted by him. Due to fears of human beings seeing and capturing the 'borrowers', the family fear for her safety but Shô is not out to hunt Arrietty, he is fascinated by her and so a bond builds between the pair and breaks the boundaries between human and 'borrower'.

 The film has currently been released in two languages; Japanese and English, but there is also an American version too. The UK version has voice casting from Saoirse Ronan and Mark Strong, whilst the US version stars Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. I saw the Japanese (and 'proper') version which features voices from Mirai Shida and Ryûnosuke Kamiki. If you do decide to take the family along to see 'Arreitty', I'm sure you're local multiplex will be screening the film in English/American. 

 What 'Arreitty' has that so many films lack nowadays is heart - it cares for it's viewer and expresses this with irrevocable beauty. All viewers, young and old will be unable to help being swept up in this animated treasure and taken aside by just how visually, narratively and emotionally stunning it is. 'Arrietty' is the cinematic equivalent of whatever one believes to be the definition of 'beautiful'.

 When watching this picture, the one thought that struck me is, "why on earth do we 'need' 3D when we have this?" Yonebayashi's animation, aided by the legendary Miyazaki swallows the screen in a sea of plush foliage, raindrops and climbing vines making the world in which our heroine is in seem terribly big, but visually dazzling. It amazes me that Ghibli is the only studio still devoted to 2D hand-drawn animation because when it looks THIS good, it's hard to imagine why any animation studio would use any other technique, and this is coming from a Pixar maniac...

Still from 'Arrietty' (dir: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2011)
 Every individual item is so intrinsically detailed; from a microscopic teapot, to a leaf swaying in the wind, the artistic nature of 'Arrietty' is a marvel of dedication and effort. To think things like 'My Bed' is called 'art' sends shivers down my spine when something so beautiful, so incredible and so extraordinary is right here for the world to see and embrace. As far as animation goes, this film is amongst the best I have ever seen, and it's certainly the best animated film of the year, no question.

 Furthermore, the film features rounded and wonderful characters, all of whom have an important role to play; narratively and emotionally. Arrietty is a great role model for children, particularly young girls. She cares and wants to support her family, she's strong, hard-working and determined, and above all else, she isn't prejudice. She understands Shô and learns to enjoy his company. Regardless of the reality in all of this, the film's heroine still provides plenty of positive energy and a great moral compass that I believe children will pick up on.

 The film sweeps along in a calm and gentle pace, and although there is limited threat and action, it oozes with charm and magic and is lifted by it's angelic score. An early sequence involving a 'borrow' hunt to attain supplies is incredibly exciting and involving so why would you need tons of mania? 'Arrietty' is a love-letter to childhood enchantment, to that feeling of awe and magic, and the belief in 'another', so bucket loads of action would be inappropriate and pretty pointless anyway. 

 It seems unfair that Ghibli's latest probably will not gain the cinematic release it so truly deserves, but for those who do make the effort to go and see it, you will not only be greatly rewarded, you will be blown away by it's sheer velocity of wonder, craftsmanship and gorgeous storytelling. This will certainly appear on my top 10 films of 2011 - if it doesn't, consider me mad.

It's fellow release-day pictures will still be screening at multiple times this time next week, but 'Arrietty' is unlikely too so grab your family and take them to see this utterly incredible animated feature film - I promise you will not regret it; I cannot recommend it enough.

Sumptuous and marvellous storytelling aided by eye-watering beauty - 'Arrietty' is simply sublime.

By Chris Haydon

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